Monday, October 23, 2017

STARTING OVER

A lot has transpired in my life since last posting on this writing blog five months ago. The last post was on May 22nd during a time when I was so super busy in my employment as the manager of a new liquor outlet that was under construction, and under my supervision, in Kipling that I decided to take a bit of a writing hiatus.
Now those things have completely changed. The store is open and running and I am no longer employed there, which is a story of book-like length, so I will leave those details alone for now.
It’s always good news and bad news whenever life-altering events occur and when one door closes another one opens. The job ended which provided me with an opportunity to revisit my passion and pick up the pen or keyboard, as it were, and get back to writing.
I recall giving this advice to our youngest daughter who later played it right back to me shortly after my employment ended-“Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it!” Wise words indeed. See, parents, our children often listen to us even when we think otherwise.
I have been submitting various columns, (almost every one of them posted to this blog site), since 2002 in a Saskatchewan weekly newspaper, The Kipling Citizen. These personal interest columns have covered many subjects including politics, family life, sports, social media, lifestyle changes and there's always the weather. I attempt to inject as much humour into these articles and essays as I can but I have been known to unleash a political rant or two now and again just to spice things up.
Although I gave up my regular editorial spot in the weekly paper I am going to return to writing an article per week, as I have done in the past, and post it here every week. I will also offer it to The Citizen if they ever need some content to fill out the paper.

Best selling author, our back-door neighbour and my English teacher from High School, Mary Balogh, says that the best way to avoid writer’s block and the best way to make a living writing is simply…write, write, write. I intend to do that.
"Inspiration comes from hard work."- Mary Balogh.

Monday, May 22, 2017

HOCKEY REUNION AND HONOURING AN OLD FRIEND

            I woke up on the 1st of May and immediately breathed a sigh of relief as I took my first glances out of the window to make sure that the ground was only wet and not covered in a foot or two of snow. Remember the massive dump of ’11 and then a repeat in ’13? Yuck! What a way to start the month of May.
            We needed a nice soaking rain to wash the ugly off of the last vestiges of winter and get some things greening up. That we could use. What we didn’t need was another snow on the cawing crows. That can wait until those irritating bloody things are heading back down south next fall.
            Snow or no snow the golf course is opening up and baseball has begun. In other words…spring has sprung! Now all we need is some temperatures over the +10C mark and we’d be laughing.
            Even though the outdoor spring sports activities are underway good old hockey is not too far away from any Canadian sports fan’s mind. Right now we are into the second round of the NHL Playoffs and Major Junior Hockey’s Regina Pats are the Eastern Conference Champions and they’re headed to the Western Hockey League Finals with the hopes of winning the Memorial Cup-the holiest of junior hockey’s holy grails.
            Named for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the WHL’s Pats are the Canadian Hockey League’s oldest franchise beginning operations in 1917, and celebrating their 100th anniversary next season.  The club has competed in a record 12 Memorial Cup Championship games including the inaugural final back in 1919 before winning major junior hockey’s prize three times in 1925, 1930, and 1974. The Regina Pats will be hosting the Memorial Cup in 2018 their Centennial Season.
Sticking with the hockey and memorial theme I had mentioned a few columns ago that some old Kipling Royals and Pipestone Beaver alumni wanted to reunite to share some old hockey war stories later this year. Initially I had announced the date as the 17th of June but the event will be held on the 10th of June.
This event will be open to anyone and everyone. Anybody who has had any experience with organized sports teams know that just having players doesn’t necessarily make a “team”. Coaches, managers, training staff, permission from spouses, (if required), and moral support from a fan base are necessary for the success of any team so whenever there is a reunion it should be all-inclusive and this one is.
I had also mentioned that one of the main pushes to get this event going was the too-soon passing of Brian Gallagher last June. Brian played on both of these teams and his old teammates wanted to provide a memorial for him.
Brian was a great goalie and an even better person. Brian really loved hockey but I would have to say that his love of the land and farming even surpassed his love of hockey. Brian didn’t have a great tolerance for formal schooling but he was a well-educated man. He loved reading and learning and his knowledge of history, politics and science, to name a few, was astounding.  
When it was suggested, by Mark Toppings, Brian’s friend and teammate on both the Pipestone Beavers and the Kipling Royals, that the best way to memorialize Brian was to start an Agriculture School Scholarship Fund  it was the perfect fit. Decision made.
 Circle the date. There will be a fun golf game at Kingswood Golf Course followed by a supper and social at the good ol’ Kipling Arena. It will be a great time for a great cause.
“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.”-Rosa Parks, (1913-2005).


Monday, April 24, 2017

EASTER MEMORIES


            Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. In Christian religion Good Friday marks the death of Jesus Christ and it is a fundamental part of Christianity along with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

            Needless to say, as my father was a United Church minister, Easter was a very special time of the year around our home growing up. The religious aspects were lost on me, though, as my Easter revolved around the Easter egg hunt, the Easter candies and goodies and those old standby Easter favourites…the Oh Henry Easter egg bars. Oh man, I loved those Oh Henry bars! Still do!

            Sidebar here: are those bars that much smaller in size now than they were when I was a kid in the ‘60’s or am I just that much bigger? Hmmmmmmm. Perhaps a little bit of both.

            The other great treat at Eastertime was the Easter break from school. What school-age child doesn’t like a break from school? Oh sure, there were those one or two keeners that we grew up with who wished there was school every day but there was something just a little “off” with that kind of thinking to me.

            Because we lived in Saskatchewan and the Easter weekend moved around the calendar a bit you could either be making a snowman or getting a sunburn. Sometimes you could be getting both done at the same time! But spring is a great time of year to be away from school whether you were rafting in runoff water or playing street or “ground” hockey or bringing out the ball gloves and baseball bats for the first time in the year. 

            I was one of the younger siblings in our family and I recall anxiously waiting for my older brother and sisters and their families to come home for the Easter break. There was always a house full of people with lots of food, fun and frivolity. After I grew older and I moved away from home I joined my siblings and their families in travelling home to Mom and Dad’s house to celebrate Easter with them.  

            Debbie and I started our thirty-seven-year relationship right around Easter so this time of year is extra special for us in that regard, too. I recall one of the very first times that Deb had much interaction with my oldest sibling, my brother Jack. Dad and Mom were living in Coledale, Alberta, at that time, and a lot of my family members were gathered at their place for Easter. Dad and Mom had a big house and many of us were staying with them including me and Deb as well as Jack and his wife Susan.

            Just a little background note here: Jack’s wife Susan doted over him and did everything for him “just so” as he was a pretty particular guy with his food likes and dislikes and his clothing choices and the ironing on his pants and shirts which had to be exact as he was pretty darn fussy. I’m pretty sure that Susan even ironed Jack’s gitch and socks, for crying out loud!

            Anyway, it’s Easter Sunday morning and we’re all getting ready for church and recently married Debbie comes along with my dress shirt and says, “Here’s your shirt, I’ve got it all ironed and ready for you” and my brother Jack looks the shirt up and down and says to Deb, “You call that ironed?” Followed by his loud, boisterous laugh! Deb took it in stride and ribbed him back but the story became standard Easter Sunday lore in the family.

             The torch has been passed in the family now, as we are the ones anxiously awaiting our children and their families to arrive for the Easter weekend to carry on the family traditions and it’s highly likely that some Oh Henry bars will be part of the festivities this time around, too.

 

“In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to our past and a bridge to our future,”-Alex Haley.(1921-1992).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

MOM'S FAMOUS WORDS

The other day I ran into a friend of mine who happens to be a regular reader of this column and she wanted clarification on a word or two that I had used in some past articles. Quite often I forget myself and use some of my Mom’s phrases I heard so many times growing up that they simply became part of my vocabulary and I bandy them about like everybody should know what I am talking about. I also make assumptions in my writing regarding the readers’ abilities to follow my dialog. Sorry about that. You know what happens when you ass-u-me something, don’t you?
I will have to reveal a bit of family history in order to fully explain how some of the words that I use became the norm in the language used in our home while the Hubbard kids were growing up. You see, Mom was a full-blooded Hungarian with English becoming a second language to her when she became school age. Dad grew up in a wholly English household where English was the only language used.
My Grandma Vedres, Mom’s Mom, knew some English but she pretty much stuck to her mother tongue as most of her family and friends spoke Hungarian a majority of the time. Let’s just say that she understood English better than she spoke it. 
Dad never really liked Mom’s family talking Hungarian together because he always thought that they were talking about him! To that end, the only Hungarian spoken around our house on a regular basis was when Grandma was over for tea or maybe if one of Mom’s siblings happened to be visiting.
That didn’t stop Mom from using the odd slang or a curse word or two in her native tongue when the potatoes boiled over or the stupid toaster burnt the bread. So we grew up with kind of a hybrid language with common Hungarian words and slang thrown in with the everyday English but Mom didn’t teach us the complete Hungarian language that she and Grandma spoke.
Now, after that long-winded explanation, the word that I had used a couple of weeks ago is more attributable to a Rose Hubbard-ism than it is an actual Hungarian term, I’m thinking, but “schmutrooking”, (this is my spelling of a word I heard many, many times but never saw in a written form), was the word Mom used when she described someone walking slowly and scuffling their feet along. Skulking, as it were. As in, “look at ol’ Sushinka schmutrooking down the street again!” Make sense? I hope so.
Those are the words I grew up hearing! That was just Mom. My Mom was a very funny woman with a great sense of humour. She was an accomplished story teller and her colourful language always added a little extra flavour to her tales. 
“All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.”-Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

IT'S REUNION TIME!


            I guess all of that talk about the 50th birthday of the Kipling Arena made me pretty nostalgic. It welled up a lot of memories of the past so you will have to endure one more column mostly dedicated to the theme of the Kipling Arena.

            Back in the 1970’s there was an abundance of hockey players and not just in Kipling, either. The Baby Boomers were coming of age and there were a lot of them. They were everywhere.

There were so many players back then that the younger minor hockey teams seldom had to leave town to find competition as they had a four-team house league in most of the age groups right here in town and they played against each other every Saturday morning.

Every now and then there would be a trip to a tournament or an “away game” somewhere and, to me, a road trip back then to Odessa or Indian Head seemed like it lasted forever for crying out loud and now we’re hiking eight and ten-year-old kids to Carnduff in the middle of the week? Times have definitely changed and I am digressing.

            In addition to all of Kipling’s minor hockey teams there were the Kipling Royals senior hockey team, the Pipestone Beavers Junior B Hockey Team who used the Kipling Arena as their home base and there was a “fall-through-the-cracks” Senior “B” team of guys who still loved to play the game but didn’t have the talent for the Royals or didn’t want to commit the time required to play senior hockey, or risk a job-ending injury in a body-contact league. The Senior B’s were a precursor to today’s Rec Hockey Teams playing in the beer n sausage leagues.

            After I finished high school I played more than a few games with the Senior B’s before joining the Royals for a few seasons but I didn’t get a chance to play for the Pipestone Beavers. Like many of my peers I tried out for the team but apparently the quota on string-bean right wingers with a soft backhand had been filled. Three years in a row. Again, with the digressing.

            In 2006 I helped organize a “Royals Reunion” and it was well attended and we had a lot of fun reminiscing, and, like many of these events we vowed to have one every five years or so. So far, we haven’t.

            I had many discussions with a lot of the old Pipestone Beaver alumni, too, many of which are still in the area, and it turns out that they have never had a reunion since the team disbanded after the 1976-77 season.

            Many of my close peer-group friends played with both the Royals and the Beavers and we share many, many hockey stories every time we gather for an occasion. Since the day I moved into Kipling Brian Gallagher had been one of my closest friends and he was an excellent goaltender for both of those teams. Brian passed away last June and as many of his old teammates and friends gathered to say goodbye we lamented the fact that we don’t meet as often as we should or as often as many of us would like. Again, the subject of a bigger reunion came up. This time we aren’t putting it off.

            So we are going to have the First Ever Kipling Royals Pipestone Beavers Hockey Teams Reunion on June 17th. There will be a golf tourney at Kingwood Golf Course, a supper and hours and hours of reminiscing and lying to each other about how good we used to be. A wobbly pop or two may be involved.

            We will be recruiting help and we will be calling as many of the old team members as we can so if anyone would like to volunteer or pass on any names of teammates past follow the contact information at the bottom of this article and let me know.

“What can ever equal the memory of being young together?” –Michael Stein, In the Age Love.

THE RINK-HUB OF A SASKATCHEWAN COMMUNITY


            The Kipling Arena is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. As with every other town, village or rural community on the Canadian prairies that constructed curling and skating rinks the Kipling Arena became one of the main focal points of the community. Residents really needed somewhere to go to while away the long, long Saskatchewan winter hours. You know, we were adapting to the elements, you might say.

            Did you know that Saskatchewan has more indoor rinks than Ontario? We do! Mind you, our weather may factor into that, don’t you think? There was a statistic that I read while I was in the recreation field which stated that Saskatchewan had more indoor rinks, especially artificial ice rinks, than the entire country of Russia. I am not sure if that statistic is still true today, but still.

            The rink has changed significantly in many ways since its opening day. Artificial ice was installed in the 1970’s and dressing rooms have been renovated or constructed continually over the years improving the amenities of the facility. Many rink improvement projects have been completed throughout the years through government grant monies, local municipal support and, of course, the backbone of any community…its users and volunteer base.

            I remember the pre-artificial ice days of the early 1970’s. I was a linesman for most of the Junior B Pipestone Beavers’ home games and we were still using hand scrapers to clean the ice between periods of the hockey games and they only flooded the ice during the second intermission. It was the same for the Kipling Royals home games.

            Volunteers would hand-scrape the accumulated skating surface snow into windrows and then shovel the snow out of two hatches in walls at the south end of the rink. These hatches were also an excellent way to sneak in to the rink to scoot around unsupervised while the place was closed. If one was prone to doing that sort of thing, mind you.

            Back then there was an old barrel and boom contraption that was used to flood the ice. A hose came up out of the basement at the north end of the ice and they filled a barrel that was attached to a bike-wheel cart and it had about a ten foot boom across the back where flannel was draped to smooth the heated water as it flowed out of the boom. It was pulled by hand and it needed about three barrels to do a complete flood, I think. It was interminable!! It took forever!

            Many a time I shivered and froze through two periods of hockey in a rink that was always ten degrees colder inside than it was outside only to sit for thirty-five minutes in a cramped hot referee’s room and have to reacclimatize myself to the frigid conditions all over again. Ditto when I was playing hockey for the Royals. I hated going back out for those third periods in -25C conditions.

            Back in my high school days the last event of the skating rink season was the Kipling High School broomball tournament. There was usually one to two inches of water on top of the remaining ice as we ran around soaked to the gills slipping and sliding in rubber boots, as no one had broom ball shoes. It was freezing cold, soaking wet FUN!

             Yes, when I think of the Kipling Arena I think of fun. I had a lot of fun times in that rink and I don’t think I’m done having fun there. Happy 50th Kipling Arena and here’s to 50 more!

“The Rink. A place where I’ve laughed but also where I’ve cried. Had my biggest successes and my biggest failures. It is where I belong.”- Pinterest Pin.

Monday, March 6, 2017

HAPPY 50TH KIPLING ARENA!

            It was with great interest that I read last week’s Citizen coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the construction of the Kipling Arena. Currently the “rink” may not meet the mid-to-late1960’s level of being the centre of the community’s universe, (53 rink bonspiels!! my goodness), but it is still a very vital structure as well as a cornerstone of our community.
            50 years! It seems like such a short time ago in our history but a lifetime ago in our memories. As they say, “if those walls could talk”, my, my, my what stories they would tell.
            The Kipling Arena was barely three years old when I crossed the threshold for the first time in 1970. I spent an awful lot of hours in that facility in many different capacities throughout the years. Fan, player, coach, referee, linesman, ice maker, PA announcer, bonspieler, cook… I even worked out of the Parks and Recreation Office in the northeast corner of the waiting room for four years from 2002-2006. I know that building intimately.
             There were numerous times when I sat alone in that massive wood structure while it seemed as though the walls were trying to talk to me. I wasn’t sure what they were saying but there was a lot of creaking and cracking and moaning and groaning going on in there. Most people would be a little spooked being alone in that old building with those noises going on all the time but I felt that if there were any spirits floating around the Kipling Arena they’d just be the ghosts of fun-seekers past. You know, benevolent spirits still having fun in a building built for that very purpose…fun…and in that capacity, it has been and continues to be a resounding success.
            I am reluctant to name names while talking historically about bygone days in our community, knowing full well that I will miss someone significant, but I can’t help but mention a few people from my early, early days in the rink. A few of the rink-dwellers from back in the day who made an impression on me for various reasons.
            People like “George Baker the Caretaker”. If you were to tie all of the skate laces together that George Baker tightened up for every little skater over the years they would stretch for miles and miles and miles. Ol’ George could skate like the wind, too. He loved skating.
            Then there was Frank Kashmere with his ever-present grease dripping burger flipper in hand standing in front of the hot grille cooking burger after burger after burger always with a smile on his face and a gruff-voiced tease to a waiting customer. Dare I say a cigarette ash may have found its way onto the cooking surface a time or two? Nah…
            Frank’s brother, Steve “Choopy” Kashmere, was another rink caretaker and he had a spot on the top bench at the south end of the waiting room bleachers where he’d hold court and critique the abilities, or lack thereof, of the hockey teams currently playing on the arena ice. Most of the time whatever they were doing was wrong! And Choopy was probably right.
            Most of my time at the rink was spent on the “skating” side but I had my share of wobbly pops in the curling lounge, too, over the years. I’m a terrible curler but I can bonspiel with the best of ‘em. Or could…that is.
            Safe to say some of the happiest moments in my life have happened in the Kipling Arena. So many memories. So many friendships made and moments enjoyed.
One column dedicated to 50 years of history seems inadequate so you’ll have to tune in again next week for “Kipling Arena 2-Point-Oh!” There are more stories to be told.

 “We didn’t realize that we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”-from Winnie the Pooh.